Dear Artists, We Need You
These days I seem to have considerably less time and disposable income (not to mention my dad-knees that probably don’t jump as effectively), so my concert outings are now few and far between.
Last weekend though, my wife and I got a babysitter so we could go see two of my favorite bands: Johnnyswim and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. The show itself was fantastic, but I had a few other takeaways I didn’t expect.
At one point in the show, one of the vocalists from Johnnyswim brought the music down to an acoustic strum, and he quietly but passionately repeated a handful of words (that weren’t in the original song) to an audience soaking up his every word:
You are not alone.
You are not forgotten.
You are not alone.
You are not forgotten.
The song soon concluded, and even though we were in a theater full of people, you could hear a pin drop. It seemed everyone in the room was collectively taking a moment to reflect on his profound words of truth sang beautifully over the soft picking of a guitar.
In another song, his wife repeated powerful words that again weren’t in the original recorded versions of their music:
Touch the hem of His garment, and you will be healed.
Just touch the hem of His garment, and you will be healed.
Maybe you’ve also experienced this magical time-stands-still moment when you’ve witnessed powerful art. I hope you have, because I can’t adequately explain it to you. Today those quotes are simply words you’re reading on a screen. At that time, though, everyone in that theater felt those words in a deep and real way.
I’ve had times in my life when people told me I wasn’t alone. I’ve read the story of Jesus healing the woman in the crowd dozens of times. But this time was different because someone sang it, which led me to this rediscovered fact:
Truth feels more real when it’s displayed and shared through art.
Art is hard work.
Even though I work in “the arts,” I don’t consider myself an artist. True artists are originals who think differently. I don’t think of myself as an artist because my personality and wiring urge me to accomplish a lot of things. And art isn’t “productive” because that’s not how art works.
Art isn’t quick. Art won’t always feel like an adequate use of time, because sometimes art doesn’t “work.” There’s really no way to know if something is beautiful or successful until you’ve finished it. Sometimes songs don’t connect, brushes and pencils don’t cooperate and film scripts aren’t really that interesting.
And that’s OK. Good artists push through.
Musicians rarely never record a song the first time they hammer out the melody.
Artists don’t display portraits after 15 minutes of sketching.
Authors never publish their first draft.
Masterpieces take hours and days and weeks and years, and that is what makes them masterpieces.
Not all of us are artists, and that’s a good thing, too. We all need each other, and artists need audiences. But as an audience member, here is my word of encouragement to my artist friends:
The rest of us need you.
Artists have a gift of helping the rest of us understand the world around us through their creations. I know from my experience that creating art can be frustrating, and the “starving artist” moniker is often a disappointingly appropriate expression.
But here’s what you need to hear, dear artists: On days when the strings don’t sound right or the shutter speed is off, keep creating. If you put on a concert for only five people and no one comes to your book signing, keep creating. If your article is rejected or the art studio won’t accept your painting, keep creating. If you have a long list of things you “should” do but have that song inside you that just needs to be written, keep creating.
Because the rest of us need it.
We need guitarists who spend hours mastering a perfect chord structure.
We need artists who master their brush strokes and Photoshop filters.
We need authors who struggle to mix and shuffle and construct sentences.
Your work helps us see reality in a way our minds can’t appropriately communicate otherwise. We need lyrics to remind us we’re not alone. We need movies that make us laugh when nothing else can. We need art that adequately displays the beauty around us that we’re usually too busy to see.
So keep going. God has given you the gifts you have, and He intends to use them. Write that song. Finish that book. Paint that still life. We need your words and your art to remind us of God’s truths: That He is good, life is beautiful, we have a purpose and everything is going to be OK.
So artists, whether your audience is one person or a crowd of adoring fans, remember this:
You have a gift to share. You are not alone. And you are not forgotten.
About the Author
Matt Ehresman works as the creative media director at First MB Church in Wichita, Kan. He loves using video, images, words and sounds to help people think about things that matter. He is a graduate of Sterling College and Regent University and an expert on all things Mountain Dew and superheroes. He is the proud husband of Tillie and occasionally frustrated owner of Jarvis (their mini Aussie).